The FAA released a special airworthiness information bulletin (SAIB) July 10 related to the fuel selector valve of some Piper aircraft. The SAIB covers Piper models PA-28-140, PA-28-150, PA-28-160, PA-28-180, PA-28R-180, and PA-28R-200.
On these models, the fuel selector valve can be inadvertently switched off and/or may bind when switching fuel tanks, and can cause a loss of power in flight. The SAIB recommends "the installation of a fuel selector valve cover designed to prevent inadvertently selecting the off position and the maintenance of fuel selector valves to prevent their binding."
The FAA said it received a report of a pilot inadvertently switching off a fuel selector valve of a Piper PA-28-180C while landing in December 2011, resulting in a crash with one serious injury and substantial airplane damage. "The incident was attributed to the pilot inadvertently selecting the off position of the fuel selector valve and a lack of fuel selector valve maintenance," according to the FAA. The airworthiness concern that prompted the SAIB was not determined to be an unsafe condition that would warrant an airworthiness directive.
The FAA recommends that Piper owners become fully familiar with the operation of their airplane’s fuel selector valve, replace fuel selector valve covers with a design that uses a lockout device for the selection of a valve’s off positions, and inspect and maintain fuel selector valves.